February 28, 2012 by Editor · Comments Off
You’ve asked for more interviewing strategies and here they are:
1. Pay attention while walking around.
If you have a chance to tour the facility where you’re interviewing, go for it. It’s a great way to get a read of the culture and a handle on your comfort within it. For example, if employees appear to move about in stony silence and the place is quiet as a tomb, the company might be a model of productivity and focus, introverted reflection, or reeling from bad news. All or none of the above? Take note, and check out your impressions with the interviewer.
If the place is jumping, employees are laughing and talking, and look like they’re having fun, they could be an extraverted, creative group, enjoying each other and their work, or a chaotic, non-productive, un-structured mess. All or none of the above? Check it out.
Are employees greeting you and your host or keeping a respectful distance? Does that tell you it’s an interactive, manage by walking around company, or one that is formal or remote? See what I mean? The tour is a gold mine of clues to culture, style, and effectiveness. Don’t assume, check out your impressions.
2. Find out what happens next.
Rather than get frustrated because you’ve had a great interview and you don’t know what happens next, ask.
“Mr. Johnson, I want this job because I can make an immediate contribution to your company. When am I likely to hear that I’m in the running for it?”
“Well, Sally, (if that’s your name) we have several more people we’ll be interviewing. You should hear something in a few weeks.”
Not enough information. If you want more, take it up a notch.
“Thanks, Mr. Johnson. Here’s my dilemma: I’m really interested in this job but I’m in the process of interviewing with other companies. If I get another offer, should I accept it?”
If Mr. Johnson says, “ by all means, take it”, keep looking, because this job won’t happen. Conversely, if Mr. Johnson says, “Sally, if that occurs, don’t accept until you’ve spoken with me. Here’s my direct number.” Good news. Mr. Johnson thinks you’re a contender. Stay in touch and yes, keep looking. You’re in the hunt until you have a firm offer.
3. Know when to walk and when to talk.
Put everything you have into every interview you take and don’t bolt if after the first few minutes, you don’t hear what you want. There’s always more you can learn about the company’s opportunities and much more for the interviewer to learn, and appreciate, about what you bring to their table, if you’ll keep your seat.
Having gleaned all you can, assess the potential of your options. If you find that where you’ll spend most of your time is what you do least well, take a pass. If you accept a job that’s a poor match, the likely result will be terminal boredom, terminal terror, or just plain termination: they’ll fire you or you’ll fire them.
4. Know when to accept an offer and when to let it go.
Do you know the full extent of your responsibilities and accountability? Do you know when they expect you to begin making a measurable, quantifiable difference to the department? Have you met everyone with whom you’ll be working? Are you aware of the challenges you’ll face? Are the salary, benefits, and title commensurate with what’s expected of you? Will you be doing what you do best while expanding your learning through training and development because of the opportunities they provide?
If it’s a job with great potential, take it. If it’s just OK on a good day, keep looking.
5. Should you call, wait, or keep looking?
Ah, classic case of the what-to-do’s. You’ve had a dynamite interview. You loved them. They loved you. They promised an offer. Seven days have passed and you haven’t heard from them. Call or wait?
Call. Once. With a positive, confident, energetic tone:
“Mr. Jones, this is Tom Smith and I’m looking forward to hearing from you, working with you, and making an immediate contribution to your company.”
Then lace up your shoes, and keep looking.
February 21, 2012 by Editor · Comments Off
By request, I’ve prepared some interviewing tips for you. If you like these, you’ll get five more next week.
- Extraverts! Don’t talk too much! You’re so good with words you don’t
seem to know when to stop using them and you’re talking your way in and out of great opportunities.
Instead, stay on point and make your points calmly and succinctly. Don’t repeat yourself. And don’t interrupt.
Sell yourself on track record and potential, not on exaggerated statements and promises that sound over the top.
Limit your responses to a minute or less. If you keep going you’ll fry the patience and attention of the listener. Make your strongest points at the beginning of your response, not at the end.
Go for an airtime ratio of 60/40. The interviewer gets 60, you get 40. Use it judiciously; not all in one breath.
2. Introverts: Speak up more! A stellar resume won’t help if you consistently under-whelm your interviewers.
(“The applicant was great on paper but flat in person. She didn’t tell me enough about her ability, experience, and accomplishments to do herself justice. I had no choice but to pass on her application.”)
Get in the habit of saying more, not less, and elaborate, don’t edit your points. Brag a little. Brag a lot. As understated as you are, it won’t sound like hype.
You’re not prepared for the interview unless you’ve practiced your responses with people willing to distract (a particular challenge for introverts), critique, and coach you so you’re ready for the big game.
Practice your social meet and greet skills so you can carry your weight in the limited but necessary light talk that precedes the heavy lifting of the interview.
3. Don’t talk in circles. Say what you mean! Applicants lose time and ground when they answer questions with responses that go nowhere. Rather than jabber on in hopes of stringing together a series of sentences that make sense, own that you either need time to reflect on the answer, or that you don’t have an answer. If you’re confused by the question, and want clarification, say so. If you want to know why the interviewer asks the question so that you can respond to the intent, rather than the content, say so. Bottom line, come across as someone who doesn’t sidestep the truth, but tells it, straight up. Employers like it that way.
4. Ask more questions! Nothing kills an interview more quickly than the applicant who doesn’t ask questions, even if the interviewer “answered every one of them, before I could even ask!”
Give me a break. If the interviewer answered every one she was a mind-reading, non-stop talker, or your questions were no- brainers. Which isn’t saying much for either of you.
If you wait until the end of an interview to ask questions you’ve missed countless opportunities along the way to learn more and to maximize the information you’ll get. Timing is everything. When the interviewer discusses job responsibilities that tap into your best stuff, ask questions that probe for elaboration and respond with examples of your accomplishments. If you’re interested in the vision of the company, because that’s where you can contribute, ask. If you want to know more about the challenges they face, because you’re a problem solver, ask. Ask questions that enable you to showcase your talent, and allow you to match your values, ethics, and preferred management style to what you discover, are theirs.
5. Listen! If you want to master the art of the interview, master the art of listening. A good listener can frame questions based on where the interviewer is going, not where he’s been. A good listener knows what’s safe to probe and what’s better left undisturbed. A good listener balances listening with responding, follows the flow, understands context, and asks the necessary questions that fill in the missing pieces. A good listener answers the why of a question, and not just the what. A good listener benefits both sides by asking open-ended questions that encourage dialogue, not monologue. Above all, good listeners model behaviors that indicate when dealing with ambiguity, they choose ready, aim, fire, instead of the reverse.
February 14, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Last week I described the saga of Sam Smiley. An affable fellow who, as a young man, chose a career in sales because family and friends said he should. “You’re a natural”, they said. “You’re a warm, outgoing guy. People like you; they’ll trust you; they’ll buy from you.”
What a relief for Sam! “I’m a warm, outgoing guy, and trustworthy, too. People like me so they’ll buy from me. What a concept!”
Sam did as directed and enjoyed modest success in sales for many years, until this one. He’s just been fired and he’s at a loss to understand why.
His boss said that he wasn’t aggressive enough, that he didn’t close sales
and when he did, the deal would unravel before the ink was dry. Instead of being accountable and accepting responsibility for his mistakes, he’d blame others.
“You’re a pleasant enough fellow to have around, Sam, but you do too little and cost too much to stay on the payroll.”
Sam knows that sales aren’t for him and never have been. He’s never liked cold calling and can’t bear rejection. He’s been kidding himself, stalling for time, ducking for cover, hiding the truth from himself and from others. He needs to get on with his life but how do you do that when you’ve never known how and you’re turning fifty.
Sam Smiley told his wife that he wants out of sales but doesn’t know what else to do. She said that she’d like to be supportive of him but they have big expenses and need a big income to make ends meet. He wanted to tell her that she needed to get a job, that she needed to spend less and help more. But Sam just smiled and said, “that’s fine, you’re right. I’ll figure something out.”
Sam went to his doctor, who was an old friend and confidante. The doctor, noting Sam’s elevated blood pressure, wanted to know what was going on. Sam described his dilemma: “If I get another job in sales I’ll be miserable. If I get a job doing something different I’ll have to start over. At my age, I don’t know if I’ll have the energy, or the opportunity.”
His doctor-friend suggested that he watch his diet, exercise more, and take charge of his life. Sam didn’t know what that last part meant but agreed that it sounded like a good idea.
“Take charge of your life, Sam.” You’re at a fork in the road. Take the fork on the right and stay in sales. You can make that work if you decide to become more assertive, focused, and deliberate in your goals. It won’t be easy Sam, but it’s doable.
Take the fork to the left and dare to do something more in keeping with your natural style and preferences. It’s risky, Sam, but if you have the courage to change directions you may find more satisfaction in the work that you do.
Whatever fork you choose and direction you take, Sam, you’ll always face difficult people and challenging situations. If you want to change the outcome, replace your old responses with new attitudes. Change your attitude and you can change your behavior. Learn what it means to take actions that are consistent with integrity. Learn what it means to be congruent and forthright in what you say and how you say it. Learn that you can “be nice” and negotiate fairly; that you can be trustworthy, and close a deal. Learn that it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
Find mentors from whom you can learn to do best what you do least well. Practice in all the places in your life: with your spouse, your children (of whatever age), and your friends.
A hearty handshake and pleasing demeanor won’t replace competence and hard work. Get up to speed on what you need. Improve your computer skills. Learn how to read a balance sheet. Read business journals. Find out what the competition is doing. Create a niche for yourself that everyone agrees adds value to the organization. Confidence comes from mastering what eludes you, whether it’s your ability to initiate or complete, negotiate or compete. Take charge of your life, Sam, and do it now.
Originally published in the Greensboro News and Record